Voter registration efforts see 2,500 students sign up to vote ahead of midterm elections

University Democrats, Student Council have increased efforts to augment student registration

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A student registers to vote outside a Lawn room.

Nick Zugris | Cavalier Daily

Student and non-student organizations registered approximately 2,500 University student voters around Grounds before the Virginia voter registration deadline this past Monday. The deadline concluded months of organizations’ efforts on Grounds to increase student voter registration. 

College Republicans, University Democrats and Student Council are among the student groups that have been organizing efforts to encourage students to register to vote since first-year students arrived to Grounds in August. NextGen Virginia — branch of the liberal advocacy nonprofit organization NextGen America  — also visited colleges and universities to encourage student voter registration, and organized registration efforts on Grounds.

“Move-in weekend was our biggest different strategy from last year, with our partnership with [University Democrats] and [College Republicans],” Isaac Weintz, a third-year College student and chair of Student Council’s Legislative Affairs Committee, said in an interview.

Along with other organizations on Grounds, including Charlottesville Democrats and the League of Women Voters, Student Council worked with University Democrats and College Republicans in a bipartisan effort that garnered 425 student voter registrations on move-in weekend. 

Jackson Samples, a third-year College student and the campaigns chair of the University Democrats, told The Cavalier Daily they helped registered nearly 800 voters — including the 425 registered in the joint effort with Student Council and the College Republicans. The remaining voters were registered by the University Democrats alone, Samples said.

“It’s a definite increase compared to last year,” Samples said.

This year, College Republicans carried out fewer voter registration efforts than in past years, fourth-year College student and College Republicans Chair Robert Andrews said. Combined voter registration efforts of College Republicans and House candidate Denver Riggleman throughout the 5th district yielded 600 registered voters, Andrews said.

The organization has instead focused on campaign efforts leading up to the midterm elections. As a younger sector of the Republican Party of Virginia, Andrews said, College Republicans have prioritized canvassing efforts.

“But obviously, voter registration is important to us and we’re happy to help in any way possible,” Andrews said. “We’ve been very happy to work with Student Council and Legislative Affairs to provide volunteers for voter registration, because we think that student engagement is consequential to the future of our country, so we feel that it’s very important.” 

This year, both Student Council and the University Democrats increased and diversified efforts to get students to register to vote. While organizations typically conduct regular voter registration drives outside of Newcomb Hall, groups also worked more closely with individual Contracted Independent Organizations to communicate with students about voter registration.

“This year we implemented a system where we went to classrooms and registered students to vote there, and also went to more CIO meetings,” Samples said. “We reached out to dozens of CIOs and asked if we could register their members to vote and several of them responded.”

In total, Student Council registered 579 students this year. Student Council members worked directly with Housing and Residence Life to generate more opportunities for voter registration, particularly in first-year residencies.

“Another element of our voter registration that was slightly different this year was working directly with [resident assistants] and [senior residents] to have specific registration for either an entire dorm building or a specific hall, and make ourselves really available to those first year students,” Weintz said.

Statewide, NextGen Virginia registered 25,000 students to vote in the midterm elections. At the University, NextGen registered just over 1,600 students this year. 

Efforts such as clipboarding, tabling and being visible on campus have helped yield greater student voter registration numbers, NextGen Virginia Organizing Director Carter Black said.

“It’s about showing students that it’s really easy to register to vote, it only takes a couple of minutes,  and that it’s a really good way to be involved in their community both on campus and off campus,” Black said. “Furthermore, registering a ton of students to vote in Virginia is the first step to having big, progressive victories in November.”

Registration is closed between now and midterm elections on Nov. 6, when registered voters will have the option to vote for Virginia’s representatives in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In the Senate,  the race is between Republican candidate Corey Stewart and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. In the House, former investigative journalist and Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn is running against businessman and GOP nominee Denver Riggleman. 

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